The Protestant view of the antichrist

The one doctrine universally held in the seventeenth century by every Protestant church, from the highest of high church Anglicans to the wildest of the Anabaptist of Fifth Monarchy sects, was the identification of the papacy with the antichrist. This doctrine was inserted into the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 25, section 6, to the embarrassment of modern American Presbyterians, who have seen fit to footnote this passage into oblivion, and quite properly so.

My two cents

English: By Lucas Cranach the Elder. It is a w...
By Lucas Cranach the Elder. It is a woodcut of people kissing the Pope’s feet, from Passionary of the Christ and Antichrist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve seen several websites accusing the Pope or Barack Obama of being the antichrist, and I think this is fraught with danger. The Bible says that if you accuse someone, and your accusation is false, your penalty as the false accuser is the same as if the accused was found guilty (Deuteronomy 19:16-19).

I’ve heard the penalty for the antichrist is to be thrown into the lake of fire. Therefore, if you accuse someone of being the antichrist—and they’re not—then your punishment could be the lake of fire as well.

I’ve done a bit of conflation, but even so, there’s no way I’d risk accusing someone of being the antichrist (Deuteronomy 19:16-20).

Quote source

North, G (1978), “Family Authority Versus Protestant Sacredotalism” in The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, vol. 4, no. 2, p. 114

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2 thoughts on “The Protestant view of the antichrist

    1. I don’t accept the conclusions of that study, and I have several reasons for doing so:

      1. I would have expected a fairly comprehensive study on the antichrist to discuss the Bible passages that use that term. Strong’s gives five instances (including plurals), yet this study cites none of them.
      2. To hold that grammar influences theology has some value, but the obverse is true as well; think of Matthew 22:41-46, when Jesus asked the Pharisees about the identity of the Christ (“the LORD said to my Lord…”). No-one could answer him, which demonstrated that grammar has its shortfalls as well. It doesn’t seem tenable to demand that theology is trumped by grammar a priori – rather, they are symbiotic.
      3. The premise that ‘antichrist’ stands as substitute misaligns with Jesus’ acknowledgement of false Christs (Matthew 24:24), which harmonises more smoothly with the notion of a substitute or impostor of Christ. False Christs (qeudocristoi) and antichrists (antichristos) have similarities but at the end of the day, they are not one and the same entity, grammatically or theologically.
      4. To say that Judas is an impostor of Jesus Christ needs a stronger defence to be convincing. I don’t recall Judas claiming to be anointed. I recall him witnessing as a disciple, healer and treasurer, but not Lord or Saviour.
      5. To say that the antichrist is not necessarily a person, but possibly an institution is a form of interpolation. 1 John 2:22 (at least) puts a personal, not corporate attribution upon the antichrist. I also note that one title of the papacy is “vicar and ambassador of Christ”, which is derivative and affirmative.
      6. I can accept that forgiveness is the sole prerogative of God (in the ultimate sense), but in the Lord’s prayer Jesus showed that people can forgive sins against one another (in the proximate sense). Immediately after the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said our Father will not forgive our sins unless we forgive the sins of others ourselves.
      7. The numbered comparisons were interesting and informative; I never thought of it that way. But it suggests the antichrist ought to mirror elements of the Godhead in a perverted way. This might work structurally, but the attributions are not exhaustive, and in that sense they are incomplete.
      8. Some things you’ve attributed to Catholicism and the Papacy have elements of truth, but not the whole truth. Some statements overlook nuances, changes and differences in doctrine that are noted in the online Catholic Encyclopedia.

      The forthcoming study of Daniel may have value if it counteracts the points above, but if you’re willing to face the Lord and hold to your accusation against the papacy, then that’s your risk to take, not mine.

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